A former NRL player suspected of killing himself and his three children in a horrific car inferno had rubbed shoulders with All Blacks and wrestling icons before his fiery death on Wednesday.
Rowan Charles Baxter, 42, and his three children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, all aged under the age of ten, died after the family’s white SUV was set on fire in Camp Hill in south-eastern Brisbane about 8.20am on Wednesday morning.
Witnesses reported hearing his wife Hannah Baxter – who escaped the blaze in a critical condition – yell ‘he’s poured petrol on me’ as she clambered out of the car.
Hannah and Rowan Baxter, with their three children (from left to right) Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. Mr Baxter is suspected of killing himself and his three children in a horrific car inferno
Baxter – who had recently split with his wife and closed the Integr8 fitness business they ran together – was previously a member of the New Zealand Warriors side.
The ex-sportsman’s business website described him as an accomplished body weight trainer for NRL and AFL rugby league teams.
Social media photos showed Baxter posing with WWE’s The Undertaker and All Black Nathan Harris.
‘The biggest Human Being i have met. That time when the UNDERTAKER & myself squared off,’ Baxter wrote in the caption alongside the wrestling star.
In others, the father-of-three was pictured with former Warriors stars Ruben Wiki and Ricky Henry and ex-Broncos and Australian international forward Matt Gillett.
The fitness trainer that year spoke of teaming up with the NRL side’s strength and conditioning coaches to share expertise about their industry.
Meanwhile, Ms Baxter described herself as ‘an enthusiastic, passionate mother of three’.
Sporting past: Rowan Baxter, right, during a New Zealand national premiership match in 2008, with Kelvin Wright and Anthony Swans. He also played for the NZ Warriors in the NRL
Social media photos showed Baxter posing with sporting stars including WWE’s The Undertaker (right)
Another photo showed Baxter alongside All Black Nathan Harris (right) with the caption thanking him for ‘an awesome catch-up’
In others, the father-of-three was pictured with ex-Broncos and Australian international forward Matt Gillett (right)
Baxter (centre) with former Warriors stars Ricky Henry (left) and Ruben Wiki (right)
Baxter is pictured with Lance Hohaia (right) – an ex-Warriors star and World Cup winner with New Zealand
She proudly told how she trained through each of her pregnancies and has won gold and silver medals for trampolining at international events.
The mother was driving the Kia Sportage that was set alight and is in a critical condition in hospital after suffering ‘significant’ burns in the blaze.
A Good Samaritan neighbour rushed to her aid and hosed her down – but suffered burns himself.
Baxter flooded his Facebook site with photos and videos of his children, describing them as ‘my world’ – but is now suspected of killing them in a murder-suicide
The Baxters separated last year and the business they ran – Integr8 Fitness – reportedly closed its doors at the end of 2019
Wreckage: This is the white Kia Sportage SUV that went up in flames in Camp Hill, in Brisbane’s south east, about 8.20am on Wednesday morning
The blaze occurred in Camp Hill, described as an upmarket, family-oriented suburb in Brisbane’s east
Baxter is believed to have stabbed himself with a knife during the horrific attack on his family.
The car blaze occurred just metres from Hannah’s parents house.
In recent months, Baxter flooded his Facebook site with photos and videos of his children, describing them as ‘my world’.
‘T-R-E-Y, love you to the moon and back,’ he posted six days ago.
‘Goodnight my babies, Daddy loves you,’ he posted a month ago.
On December 30, Baxter posted a photo of his three children saying ‘I miss you all’ .
Friends though were worried.
Weightlifting friend Joey Abraham wrote to Baxter four days ago: ‘Chin up brother everything will work out just hang in there my bro.
‘A lot of people care about you and the situation you’re facing.’
A reeling Mr Abraham told Daily Mail Australia after the tragedy: ‘Rowan was in a real bad place there for a bit because of the separation.
‘If you knew Rowan when he at his best and to see him like last week then you know how far he’d fallen.
‘T-R-E-Y, love you to the moon in back’, Rowan Baxter wrote – before he was suspected of killing his children and himself. A friend, Joey Abraham, told him ‘chin up, everything will work out’
Baxter’s New Years’ Day post: The suspected killer NRL player brought in the new year with this post of his children in the shallows. ‘Goodnight ratbags always in my heart,’ it was captioned
The family business: Rowan Baxter with Hannah Baxter and their three children pose in front of the company logo
Fitness coach: Mum Hannah Baxter managed to clamber out of her SUV but is fighting for life in hospital. Above, she holds her son Trey in a beach snap
‘He was just a shadow of the person he used to be.
‘It’s just unbelievable that he could do this.
‘They were beautiful kids, they were a beautiful family.’
Queensland Police officers were called to a family violence incident that allegedly involved the couple just last month, The Courier-Mail reported.
But the family were not involved in any Family Court or Federal Circuit Court proceedings.
HOW DEADLY CAR BLAZE UNFOLDED
Just after 8am Wednesday, neighbours reported hearing an explosion which sounded like a ‘gas bottle’ blast. At least four explosions followed.
A resident told The Australian newspaper a woman on fire leaped from the car, screaming: ‘He’s poured petrol on me’.
‘By that time you couldn’t get near the vehicle, unless you had a proper suit on, you were just no hope.
‘The young lady was rolling on the footpath on flames.’
A second neighbour told Daily Mail Australia he watched as the injured woman was hosed down on a neighbour’s lawn.
‘She was in a bad way,’ he said.
The neighbour said he had spoken to a man who had tried to rescue the children: ‘He’s in tears. ‘Babies in the car,’ that’s what he said.
The car reportedly began rolling after the blasts, and young tradesmen at a building site down the road reportedly rushed to the scene with timber to stop it.
A devastated woman, Jemimah Black, lays flowers at the scene of the inferno
Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner rests a teddy bear at a growing vigil in Camp Hill
Residents rushed to help as thick smoke filled the street, but flames towered into the air and there was little they could do to help
Wendy Antoniou, who lives several houses up, told Daily Mail Australia: ‘I thought something had landed on my roof, it was like BANG – I could feel the vibration.’
‘I came around the side window – well, I nearly bloody died. The fire brigade was everywhere, ambulance was everywhere.
‘All I could see was the smoke. I didn’t know whether it was a house on fire or what. Apparently, this car exploded.
‘First of all I couldn’t even see the flames – then I could see all these flames high in the air!’
Ms Antoniou said she was so shocked by the blaze she threw up afterwards.
The police crime scene in Camp Hill as of Wednesday afternoon
Neighbours said all they could see was thick, black smoke – followed by flames reaching into the air
Another resident told the Daily Mail the morning began when he heard the sound of a smoke detector and industrial equipment going off.
‘I thought it was maybe a grinder or something … then (after three or four minutes) I saw the smoke coming up and people started to make sounds.’
He described the scene of the woman being hosed down by a neighbour as ‘pretty confronting for everyone involved, extremely confronting for the residents’.
The local fire brigade is less than a kilometre away from the site of the tragedy and firefighters were at the blaze almost immediately.
Another resident said they heard screams and ran to help.
‘The flames were huge, absolutely insane,’ he told The Courier-Mail.
‘We had to stand back because the firefighters were rushing in.’
Police Detective Inspector Mark Thompson told reporters detectives were yet to ascertain whether the explosion was a murder suicide or a tragic accident.
‘I’ve seen some horrific scenes,’ Mr Thompson said. ‘It’s a terrible thing to be presented with.’
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